The Virus Of Fear

The Virus Of Fear

New theater company debuts in Fayetteville

“In the Middle of Nowhere,” a play written by former University of Arkansas professor and theater department chairman Kent Brown, “really struck a chord” with Terry Vaughan and Tim Gilster, the husband-and-wife team behind the newly formed theater collective, The Smokehouse Players.

“It’s about the contagious nature of fear, about how it infects us like a virus and infects anyone it comes in contact with,” says Vaughan. Vaughan says the couple chose the show — one of Brown’s best scripts, she says — because of its current political relevance.

“It could have been written yesterday, because in our political environment there is so much fear stoking,” says Vaughan. “It’s about people’s fear of each other and how terribly devastating that can be.”

The play takes place on a farm — in the middle of nowhere — in the days, weeks and months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. When a woman living on the farm slowly spirals into a madness born of fear and paranoia, her husband struggles to contain her insanity. Vaughan and Gilster, who lived in New York City when the attacks on the World Trade Center were made, say the play strikes close to home for them.

“We lived near a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, and there was so much fear around us, we became concerned for the safety of our Muslim neighbors,” says Vaughan. “It’s not beyond the pale that a normal, everyday person could suddenly turn in the wrong direction — we’ve seen it happen. That’s what this play is about.”

The name of the couple’s new theater company is taken from where they are performing.

“Frank Sharp, who is a wonderful man, owns the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse,” says Vaughan. “He said to us, ‘Would you like to produce shows here? You’re welcome to.’ We jumped right on it and formed the Smokehouse Players.”

“Terry and I had done a lot of off-Broadway theater in New York, so to utilize this unique space, we’ll use much of the same production style that we did then,” says Gilster. “It’s a small stage, a very unique space, so you have to be very creative, with minimal sets and limited lighting. The audience gets to see a style of theater that they’ve never seen before.”

“This is the kind of space you could see in the East Village in New York City,” agrees Vaughan. “The bare-bones style takes all the trappings away, so you’re not coming to see anything fancy. The focus is on the playwright’s words, the acting and the directing. The audience is forced to engage and fill in the blanks.”

The show is directed by Jacob Christiansen and features live music by Rob Button. Beer, wine and lemonade will be available for purchase starting at 6:30 p.m., an hour before the show starts. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. All proceeds from the first show will be given to the nonprofit organization Magdalene Serenity House.

“Frank did something kind by letting us have the space, and so we get to do something kind for Magdalene Serenity House, and they do something kind for the ladies they serve — so it turns into just a circle of good,” says Vaughan.



‘In the Middle of Nowhere’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15-17

WHERE — Ozark Mountain Smokehouse, 1725 S. Smokehouse Trail, Fayetteville

COST — Free; donations welcome




Categories: Entertainment, Theater